Her roles were largely stereotypical, yet her charm and goofiness made her memorable. Here’s a look at her work beyond Gone With the Wind.

DESIGN IN FILM: THE MODERN HOUSEAn eight-minute video montage of modern homes—real and fake—as seen on the silver screen.

An examination of the lengthy career of the Chinese-American character actor, from Charlie Chan to Woody Allen.

70MMThirty visually stunning films that illustrate the grandeur of large-format filmmaking.

Our look at the Texas actor’s 43-year film career, including an ill-advised Oscar campaign. 

A look at the professional life of an actress who proved to be much more than just the Wicked Witch of the West.

NEBRASKANSA look at some of the memorable talentsfrom Astaire to Zanuck—to come from the Cornhusker State.

Twenty-five cool photos reveal what goes on outside of movie camera range.

Our list of at least a dozen silent film performers that are happily still with us.

12 GREAT MOVIE SONGSElvis, The Beatles and The Supremes join our list of favorite movie themes of the 1960s.

WILHELM SCREAMWe trace the history of one of the most famous and beloved sound effects in movies.

LOST HORIZONA dud receives its due as we explore the elements that made this 1973 musical so preposterously memorable.

One hundred films whose final words of dialogue make indelible lasting impressions.

25 GREAT SILENT MOVIE POSTERSOur selection of artwork from the early days of motion pictures that expertly illustrate the tone and tale of the films they represent.

RAVES AND RASPBERRIES We select some choice bits from reviews by the late Roger Ebert.

ERROL FLYNN GETS WHACKEDThe actor recalls an unforgettable moment with Bette Davis on the set of The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex.

CINEMATIC RIDESTen films where carnival attractions add to the plot and give their protagonists a cheap thrill.

Three overwrought cautionary tales from the 1930s examine the perils of smoking marijuana in polite society.

20 DIRECTORS / 20 FILMSSome of the world’s best moviemakers from Hollywood’s Golden Era provide a behind-the-scenes look at their creations.

LOS ANGELES IN THE 1920SVintage clips offer a look at famous boulevards, studios, theaters, eateries and more.

BILLY WILDEROur favorite lines of dialogue from the Oscar-winning writer/director.

WOODY ALLENChoice lines of dialogue, from Take the Money and Run to Midnight in Paris.

KATHARINE HEPBURNTen authoritative moments when Kate's movie character speaks her mind.

UFA MOVIE POSTERSA look at the early one sheets from the longest standing film studio in Germany.

THE LANGUAGE OF NOIRWe celebrate tough talk from the best of Hollywood’s gritty crime dramas.


Aerial shots of Hollywood in 1958 includes Griffith Observatory, Grauman’s Chinese Theater and major studios.

AMERICAWe celebrate one of the most exuberant dance numbers committed to film, a thrilling showcase for freakishly talented folks with music in their bones.

HOLLYWOOD POSTCARDSTen vintage postcards revealing the glories of Southern California's movie mecca.

MAJOR FILMS, MINOR GAFFESTwenty-five mistakes in some of the greatest movies ever made.

GEORGE GERSHWINTen classic songs as seen on the silver screen.

GREAT ENDINGSA memorable tussle in Death Valley caps Erich von Stroheim’s broken classic.

10 GREAT POSTERSOur look at striking works of art that just happen to sell movie tickets.

MUST READMGM: Hollywood's Greatest Backlot provides a fascinating look at a lost treasure.

IN THE COOL, COOL, COOL OF THE EVENINGJane Wyman and Bing Crosby charm with the Oscar-winning song from Here Comes the Groom (1951).

PLUNDER ROADFilm noir at its best—and most economical. No backstory, a lean look and just 72 minutes long.

W.C. FIELDSTen of his most memorable character names.

Aliens and mutants take center stage in twenty-five spectacular movie posters from the 1950s.

Our list of ten must-see films—ten artful depictions of the human condition—by one of the world’s most influential directors.

Accomplished directors from the past 50 years talk about their triumphs and challenges in bringing a story to the big screen.

We single out five films that display the talent and range of the Warner Bros. character actor.

AL HIRSCHFELDWe select our ten favorite movie posters by the famed caricaturist.

Five films that best represent the fluttery voiced character actress’s charms.

DIAMOND SETTINGSWe take a look at five of our favorite baseball movies of the ‘40s and ‘50s.


A dozen books that became publishing phenomena and, at times, well-made and popular films.

SCREEN TESTSAudition footage from Monroe, Dean, Brando and others.

MOVIE MOMENTS THAT MAKE LIFE WORTH LIVINGOur collection of ten little moments of breathtaking beauty, expert craftsmanship and happy accidents that rank as our favorites.

A tribute to a character actress who’s made aunts and spinsters her specialty.

STARS ON STARS: 30 CANDID OPINIONSA collection of favorite quotes from movie folk discussing their peers.

We take a good look at the work of MGM’s legendary art director.

JOHN QUALENFive of our favorite performances from the character actor’s lengthy career.

We select three movie musicals we deeply wish the sunny singer/actress would have made.

Twelve examples of what made the late actor such an enduring movie star.

Ten artful, playful and downright silly shots from some of the most famous movies in existence.

JEFFREY HUNTERWe tip our hat to the underrated (and very pretty) actor best known for going toe-to-toe with John Wayne in The Searchers and hanging on the cross in Nicholas Ray’s King of Kings.

ELVIS PRESLEYFive essential films for the Elvis movie fan.

We take a closer look and listen at Johnny Mercer’s witty ditty about the coming of the season.

BILL GOLD’S MOVIE POSTERSOur salute to the legendary graphic artist, including 25 of his posters for some of the most famous movies ever made.

BEAUTIFUL MENFilm giants Cary Grant and his ilk will have to wait. Here we look at ten not-so-obvious choices—actors blessed with incredible good looks, if not legendary status.

BEAUTIFUL WOMENTen of the most physically stunning females to grace the silver screen.

FOOTBALLFive classic films where gridiron shenanigans drive the plot. 

THE 43 FACES OF JOHNNY DEPPWe review the wide variety of characters the actor has played, from early teenager roles to larger-than-life eccentrics.

FRED ASTAIREFive lively numbers from the peerless hoofer.

THE ROAD TO HELEN LAWSONJudy Garland, Susan Hayward and the bumpy road Valley of the Dolls producers experienced in casting an important role in a truly lousy film.

 AMERICAN LANDMARKS ON FILM From the Empire State Building to the Golden Gate Bridge, we take a look at ten famous sights that added drama to the movies.

THE GIRL HUNT BALLETWe revisit the stylish Fred Astaire dream ballet from The Band Wagon (1953).

IOWA FILMS & STARSTen contributions the Hawkeye State has made to motion picture history.

FOX THEATEROur fond look back at one of San Francisco’s grandest movie palaces.

AUTOBIOGRAPHIESTen great titles penned by industry legends.

THE BAND WAGONNanette Fabray recalls a glaring mistake in the 1953 classic musical.

TRIGGERWe celebrate the life and somewhat creepy afterlife of Roy Rogers's favorite mount.

CHARACTERS: AGNES GOOCHPeggy Cass's memorable turn as a plain Jane coaxed into living a little in Auntie Mame (1958).

DESIGNS ON FILMA handsome volume by author and designer Cathy Whitlock chronicles the history of Hollywood set design.

REBECCAFive screen tests for Hitchock’s 1940 classic, with comments by David O. Selznick.

CHARACTERS: BABY ROSALIEIn a daffy send-up of Shirley Temple, June Preisser plays an aging child star in MGM's let's-put-on-a-show musical, Babes in Arms (1939).

PRESTON STURGESSnippets of dialogue from six of the writer/director’s best films.

ANSELMO BALLESTEROur gallery of ten striking one sheets from the Italian poster artist.

GREAT MOVIESCelebrating the cool jazz short, Jammin’ the Blues (1944).

BETTY HUTTONTwelve films that exemplify the charms of this freakishly energetic performer.

JOSEPH L. MANKIEWICZSmart dialogue from the Oscar-winning screenwriter.

DESERT NOIROur report from this year’s Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival in Palm Springs.

RED DREAM FACTORYWe profile eight films from a unique Russian-German film studio of the twenties and thirties.

Entries in singin' in the rain (8)


"Would You" from Singin' in the Rain

Singin’ in the Rain, that 1952 bundle of joy and color and music, is often hailed as one of the greatest films ever made, and is so littered with terrific song and dance routines that selecting a favorite can be a daunting task. Donald O’Connor’s athletic “Make ‘Em Laugh” number is indeed comic gold. “Fit as a Fiddle” and “Moses Supposes” showcase the hoofing brilliance of O’Connor and the film’s male lead, Gene Kelly. “All I Do is Dream of You” is deliriously happy, marked by vibrant pink-and-gold chorine outfits, colored streamers and a nifty Charleston dance. “Good Morning” is so catchy it can turn average citizens into singers. And, of course, the title number is a monument to great movie moments, the celluloid equivalent of a bronze statue in the town square.

And yet the musical interlude I always marvel at is a demure little waltz called “Would You,” sung by Betty Noyes (dubbing for Debbie Reynolds, above) and, briefly, Jean Hagen. As a stand-alone, the song—with music by Nacio Herb Brown and lyrics by Arthur Freed—is nice, but unremarkable. What the filmmakers have done with it, however, is use it to deftly move the plot along, touching briefly upon the growing romance between the two leads and sweeping us through the process of moviemaking.

It begins with Kathy Selden (Reynolds) singing “Would You” in a recording studio, with Cosmo Brown (O’Connor) directing the orchestra. The camera pans to reveal Don Lockwood (Kelly) gazing lovingly upon Selden, his discovery. The scene dissolves to a close-up of a record player and the musically challenged Lina Lamont (Hagen) learning the song, with her vocal coach and sound technicians looking on. From there, the sequence takes us to the filming of a period picture with Lamont lip-synching the tune to Lockwood. Gradually, the color is drained from the scene and we are in the studio screening room, watching a black-and-white version of it projected for Lockwood, Brown and studio head R.F. Simpson (Millard Mitchell). It is one minute and 46 seconds of total cinema, gracefully nestled in a film that is all about the motion picture industry.

Here’s a look at the song as it appears in the film.



April 12

Arthur Freed dies of a heart attack in Los Angeles, 1973. The musicals he produced at MGM became the gold standard for the genre: Meet Me in St. Louis (1944), On the Town (1949), An American in Paris (1951), The Band Wagon (1953). In the early 1950s, he commissioned screenwriters Betty Comden and Adolph Green to build a story around a collection of songs lyricist Freed had written with frequent collaborator and composer, Nacio Herb Brown. Operating on the thin guidance that, at some point in the story, someone would be singing and it would be raining, Comden and Green slowly and agonizingly crafted a plot about the movie business—the advent of talking pictures and how it affected the studios and its players. What resulted is often cited as the cream of the crop of Arthur Freed musicals in particular and movies in general, and, on April 11, 1952, Singin’ in the Rain debuted…to not bad reviews and fairly okay box office.


"The Girl Hunt Ballet"

Ballet sequences seem to pop up with certain regularity in musicals of the ‘40s and ‘50s. They are not a formal ballet to speak of. Typically, they represent an amalgam of ballet, jazz, modern dance and various other styles, usually taking place inside the head of one of the characters. Oklahoma! is a famous example, with Agnes de Mille’s original stage choreography for “Laurey’s Dream Ballet” transferred intact from Broadway to Fred Zinnemann’s 1955 film version. Many of the best ones have Gene Kelly’s name is attached them: “Slaughter on Tenth Avenue” from Word and Music (1948), “A Day in New York” from On the Town (1949), “An American in Paris” from An American in Paris (1951) and “Broadway Rhythm Ballet” from Singin’ in the Rain (1952).

Fred Astaire, Kelly’s friendly rival at MGM, had a plum ballet sequence of his own in The Band Wagon (1953), a film showcasing the music of Arthur Schwartz and Howard Dietz about a group of performers involved with a troubled stage musical. The piece is called “The Girl Hunt Ballet,” the finale of the film and a triumphant indicator that the show-within-the-movie is now a hit.

Originally, Betty Comden and Adolph Green had written a song for the ending called “The Private Eye,” an attempt at a murder-mystery ballet that, in spite of being a non-Schwartz-and-Dietz composition, was proving unworkable in terms of staging and orchestration.

“The Girl Hunt Ballet” took as its inspiration a Life magazine article on Mickey Spillane, the prolific author of pulp fiction crime novels. The creative team got to work, crafting a tale set in the Spillane-like urban underworld of tough-guy criminals, duplicitous dames and hard-boiled private dicks.

Schwartz sent MGM’s music arranger Roger Edens some themes for him to work with, while Mary Ann Nyberg set about creating the stylized costumes: dapper suits for guys; slinky gowns for dolls. Preston Ames and Oliver Smith, working under Cedric Gibbon’s authority, created the minimal, expressionist sets, which included a city street, a dress salon, a subway platform, a fire escape, a woman’s bathroom and a jazzy nightspot.

Choreographer Michael Kidd was a little nervous about how Fred Astaire would react to Kidd’s more avant-garde movements and thus worked out the routines after Fred had left for the day, but ultimately Astaire grew keen on the idea of doing something new. Kidd’s daring is most evident in the Dem Bones segment of “The Girl Hunt Ballet”—each patron entering the bebop joint with their own unique gait, which Astaire assimilates, and Astaire’s unconventional, sexually charged dance duet with Cyd Charisse.

Finally, director Vincente Minnelli felt the ballet needed narration and called upon lyricist Alan Jay Lerner to write it. No wanting to step on the toes of the film’s official writers, Comden and Greene, Lerner agreed to it on the conditions that he not be paid and that Minnelli claim to have written it himself.

Here's a look at the entire 12-minute number.



June 17

Cyd Charisse dies of complications from a heart attack in Los Angeles, 2008. She’s was one of the most graceful dancers at MGM and in the world at large, best known for Singin’ in the Rain (1952), The Band Wagon (1953) and Brigadoon (1954). What she is not known for are three musicals she either turned down or was physically unable to do. A knee injury forced her to bow out of the role of Nadine opposite Gene Kelly in MGM’s Easter Parade (1948). Ann Miller took over for Charisse while Fred Astaire took over for Kelly, who broke an ankle during a profoundly competitive volleyball game. A pregnancy kept her away from An American in Paris (1951), allowing Leslie Caron to sweep in and become MGM’s newest star. Funny Face (1957) she turned down outright, giving Audrey Hepburn a chance to sing and otherwise cavort with Astaire in Paris and at Paramount. She almost hit movie screens in Something’s Gotta Give (1962), an unfinished remake of the Cary Grant and Irene Dunne comedy My Favorite Wife (1940) starring Dean Martin and Marilyn Monroe. Production on the film was cut short by Monroe’s erratic behavior and subsequent death. It was finally completed the following year as Move Over, Darling (1963), a Doris Day and James Garner vehicle with Polly Bergen in the Cyd Charisse role.


Easter Parade (1948)

The story is simple: Fred Astaire and Ann Miller are a musical team that breaks up when Miller decides to go solo. Astaire bets he can get anyone to replace her and plucks Judy Garland out of a chorus. Astaire tries to shape her into his former partner, and they flop. He goes back to the drawing board and discovers that, while Garland makes a lousy Ann Miller, she makes a very good Judy Garland, and their act is a hit. Along the way are a trunkful of snappy Irving Berlin songs, clever dance numbers and a very handsome, musically challenged Peter Lawford.

Like Singin’ in the Rain and The Band Wagon, the tunes in Easter Parade are plentiful and come one after another. Many are classics: “Steppin’ Out with My Baby,” “A Couple of Swells,” “Shakin’ the Blues Away” and the title song. The rest are merely terrific: “Snooky Ookums,” “It Only Happens When I Dance with You,” “Happy Easter,” “Drum Crazy,” “I Want to Go Back to Michigan,” “The Girl on the Magazine Cover,” “Everybody’s Doin’ It,” “I Love a Piano,” “Ragtime Violin,” “Happy Easter” and “When the Midnight Choo Choo Leaves for Alabam'.”

A high tide lifts all boats, and even Peter Lawford’s number—“A Fella with an Umbrella”—charms. The solitary misstep is when Jules Munshin—a likeable presence in On the Town and Take Me Out to the Ball Game—embarks on a lengthy, only moderately amusing pantomime extolling the virtues of a legendary salad. Well, it makes for a good bathroom break. Garland in particular is relaxed, subtle, surprising and funny. In her body of musical comedy performances, it’s one of her very best.